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Targeting Roy: How Danny Green Got to Fight a Legend
Jones vs. Green
By Paul Upham: It was Tuesday morning March 25, 2008 and Danny Green was driving to his retirement press conference in Perth, with his wife Nina and children Chloe and Archie in the car. “Nina was still asking me, ‘are you sure this is what you want to do?’” Green had told SecondsOut. “I switched on the radio and you wouldn’t believe what came on the radio.” It was Green’s signature entrance song, ‘Land Down Under’ by Men At Work, which had accompanied him to the ring on so many occasions during his boxing career.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Green. “Nina looked over to me and said, ‘you’ll never hear this song again walking out to the ring’. The timing of it was pretty bad. It was very emotional.”
The decision to retire in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning March 23, was made only hours after a sparring session in Sydney as he was preparing to defend his WBA light heavyweight world title against Argentine Hugo Gary in Perth on April 27, 2008.
“I woke up at 1am Sunday morning with my stomach churning, and it was telling me to hang up my gloves, basically,” said Green. “You can imagine I have struggled with the decision as I believe I am at the top of my game and the peak of my career as a professional fighter. I have never gone against my gut feelings and I am not about to start doing that now. It was almost like I had a premonition, an epiphany.”
The then WBA light heavyweight world champion stuck to his decision and announced his retirement from boxing. It was an emotional day and Green shed a tear as he walked away from the sport that he loved after reaching his peak and never to box again. Or so it seemed.
Green’s retirement prompted American boxing historian Marty Mulcahey to compile a list of professional boxers who had retired as world champion. In the entire history of boxing back to the Marquis of Queensbury era, he could only find nineteen. If he never returned to the ring, Green would join other impressive names such as Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano, Carlos Monzon, Ricardo Lopez and Lennox Lewis.
“When you put it that way, it does sound good,” said Green, at the time. “I climbed the mountain in the toughest sport in the world. I have some absolutely fabulous memories of the sport. I am going out on top in peak condition as world champion. I am leaving the sport with such beautiful cherished memories. It is something I am very proud of.”
Boxing history is littered with unsuccessful comebacks that only end in defeat and sadness. Always a man of his word, Green was so adamant that he would never fight again that it was easy to believe him. It was his stubborn determination to retire and public promise that he would never fight again which also made him initially baulk at a return to the ring.
“Eventually, I realised that I should not be worried about what someone who I will never ever meet thinks,” said Green.
Fast forward to Friday November 27, 2009 and Green is sitting in a restaurant high above the gaming floor at Star City Casino. Only days away from the biggest fight of his career against boxing royalty in the great Roy Jones Jr, the “Green Machine” is trying to qualify the experience.
“No, it doesn’t get much better than this,” says a thoughtful Green, as he looks out and surveys the bright lights and buzz of the busy casino. “This is it. This is the reason I came back.”
The then 35 year-old Green held a press conference on Tuesday morning February 10, 2009 at 9:00am outdoors at the Subiaco Oval in Perth to announce his return to boxing. He stated that his singled minded focus was on winning a rematch with arch-rival Anthony Mundine.
“Money hasn’t been the motivation for this comeback,” explained Green. “This is about me, this is about pride, this is about squaring up the ledger. Unfortunately when I fought Anthony Mundine I lost that fight and now it’s time for me to square the ledger and even up the score.”
Mundine and Green had clashed in May 2006 outdoors at the Sydney Football Stadium in front of a live crowd of over 30,000 people. Mundine won a comfortable points decision at super middleweight. Green moved up in weight and won the WBA 175lbs world title from Stipe Drews in December 2007. Then he retired.
“When I retired the feeling was that was it for me, it felt so right,” said Green. “But ever since that day it has played on my mind, the rematch with Anthony Mundine.”
While no specific date had been set, the Mundine-Green rematch was expected to be held early in 2010, outdoors at the Subiaco Oval in Perth, where Green arrived for his press conference by helicopter.
Green, who turned 36 on March 9, suggested that he would have two to three tune-up fights before facing Mundine again, which would be contested at light heavyweight.
In Wollongong at the time, Anthony Mundine and Shannan Taylor, who were to fight over twelve rounds the following night, were unhappy with the timing of Green’s comeback announcement.
“Listen, it’s me and Mundine now, come out of retirement next week Green, stay out of it, go surfing and enjoy yourself,” said an enraged Taylor. “You gave it up, you gave your word to the public (saying) ‘I’m not going to be one of these dumb fighters that come out of retirement’. Now he’s coming out on my day, when I’m fighting one of the best fighters Australia’s got. He should just let us enjoy our moment.”
Mundine stated he was agreeable to a Green rematch, “There are two things guaranteed in life - me whipping Danny Green and taxes,” he said.
But as the days and weeks rolled on, there seemed to be an ever widening gap between a Green and Mundine rematch. “The Man” was headed to middleweight and a fight with IBO world champion and fellow Australian Daniel Geale on May 27, which he would win in a close points decision.
Meanwhile, Green returned to the ring against South African Anthony Van Niekerk at the Challenge Stadium in Perth, Western Australia on April 26.
“Van Niekerk is a tough bloke,” said Green. “He is going to come to fight and come to throw punches at me. I have been out of the ring for over a year and by the time that I fight it will be sixteen months of inactivity, so there is going to be a bit of rust involved.”
The 35 year-old Van Niekerk had a record of 21-6-2 (13) and first fought as a professional in May 1995.
Green explained that his determination to avenge his loss to arch-rival Mundine was his sole reason for coming back.
“When I retired I retired and that was it,” he said. “That’s how I felt. I felt very strong about retiring. Within six months, I had a bit of an itch that I needed to scratch. I could have come back earlier but I didn’t want to really go back on what I said. Then I said, ‘you know what, I’m not really going to worry about what people think’ and live my life and do what I want to do and hopefully fulfil the motivating desire to come out of retirement and that is to beat Anthony Mundine.”
In front of a thrilled capacity crowd, Green promptly despatched Van Niekerk in two rounds and looked better than ever. It was as though he had secretly improved even more while he was away.
Angelo Hyder is a former Australia soldier who has worked just about every job you can imagine in local boxing. A long-time match-maker for Jeff Fenech, Hyder has evolved as a head trainer of expertise and respect in his own right, now training Green and super flyweight world champion Vic Darchinyan.
It was Hyder’s contacts as a match-maker which saw Green receive his first unexpected world title fight with Markus Beyer for the WBC super middleweight title in August 2003.
The significance of the coup in bringing Roy Jones Jr to Australia should never be underestimated. Making a fight with the American great is never easy. Bringing him to Australia for a fight when he had never ever fought outside of the USA before appeared to be downright impossible beforehand.
The origins of the Green-Jones Jr match can be traced back to Hyder’s friendship with American boxing match-maker Eric Bottjer.
“I first met Eric Bottjer at the Roy Jones Jr-Richard Hall fight in May 200,” said Hyder.
The likeable Aussie was working with Justin Clements from the NSW Central Coast, who fought a spirited draw with Jones Jr protégé Billy Lewis on the Jones Jr-Hall undercard.
“We were talking as beer drinkers and match-makers,” recalled Hyder.
There had been suggestions that Green could fight Jones Jr in 2008, after he dispatched Hugo Garay, but those plans dissolved when the Australian retired.
When Green announced his comeback, initially a fight with Jones was not considered.
“No, Mundine was always the initial target, because he was calling Danny out,” said Hyder.
Word of Green’s comeback reached the USA and Hyder received an email from Bottjer.
“I rang him and he asked what we were doing,” said Hyder. “Eric said he was working with Roy now. I told him I was working with Greeny. I said, ‘Why don’t we get that fight on?’”
Bottjer replied, “Green wants that fight? We want any fight that will make some really big money.”
“With me, it was about starting up the fight negotiations between the two teams and then taking a back seat to Justin Manolikos,” continued Hyder.
Justin Manolikos has been Green’s long time friend since childhood and was entrusted with running Green Machine Promotions as the Australian fighter’s manager and promoter.
Initially, the talks were about making a Jones Jr-Green fight in the USA, but then there were serious negotiations about hosting the fight in Australia in August.
“Justin tried to get him out here, but they were committed already to August 15 against Jeff Lacy,” said Hyder, “so he came up with the idea of the doubleheader and we will fight over there and then Jones comes back over here.”
The business team around a superstar like Roy Jones Jr never have just one fight in the works at any one time. Multiple deals are being worked on and presented to the boxer who makes the final decision on the options at hand.
While a fight with Danny Green was one thing and competing in Australia was an interesting side option for Jones Jr, who had two stints of two months living ‘down-under’ in 2002 when he was filming the Matrix movie sequels with Keanu Reeves, the temptation of winning a cruiserweight world title belt to complete a five division set, was downright appealing.
“It was a team decision,” said Hyder, in explaining who exactly came up with the idea of winning the IBO belt at cruiserweight and then putting it on the line against Jones Jr.
“It’s what I do, looking at the ratings and seeing the opportunities,” Hyder continued.
When it appeared that Anthony Mundine had no interest in rematching him in 2009, Green’s initial target for a big fight was Poland’s Tomasz Adamek.
“We were looking at Adamek to fight Green,” said Hyder. “Then Adamek vacated and moved up to cruiserweight. Our wanted fight list in order was No.1 Anthony Mundine, No.2 Tomasz Adamek and No.3 Roy Jones Jr. We knew we were never a guarantee to get Roy Jones.”
Adamek had plans of moving up to heavyweight, which he has now done and when he vacated the IBO belt, Green approached the IBO to be sanctioned to fight for the vacant title.
Green had previously won the vacant IBO Asia Pacific light heavyweight regional belt against Otis Griffin in July 2007 and was accepted.
“I would fight Green because it would be for the world cruiserweight title,” Jones Jr said, before accepting Green’s proposal, “and I have never won the cruiserweight title and I would probably be the biggest known fighter to ever fight in Australia in a major fight. Those are the two reasons why I would even accept the notion.”
When Jones Jr and Green fought a double-header in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 15, the Australian won his third world title against Argentine Julio Cesar Dominguez and completed the final part of the puzzle in securing a fight with Jones Jr.
“I definitely believe it was the reason why we got this fight over the line when everything got really bloody close,” said Hyder. “That title was what held everything together in that Roy wanted to win a cruiserweight title belt.”
“Justin and my team have done a great job over the years,” said Green. “Angelo and Justin had a lot to do with getting the IBO title shot for me. As a fighter I am proud. As my promoter and manager, Justin should be very proud of what he has achieved and what he has done.”
The night of August 15, Jones Jr looked to be back to his absolute best in stopping former super middleweight world champion Jeff Lacy in ten rounds. It was the 40 year-old’s best performance since he defeated heavyweight John Ruiz in March 2003 to win the WBA world title.
Two memories are easily recalled from that fight. Jones unleashing seven consecutive left hooks on Lacy, who could do nothing to stop them and Jones Jr talking to Green seated at ringside during the fight, as Lacy tried to hit him.
“Show me six or seven left hooks at a time?” asked Jones Jr. “Show me nineteen punch combinations at that speed, with that kind of accuracy. Show me any of what you saw at 40 in my last fight with Jeff Lacy to compare with me and I will listen. Until then, you ain’t going to find it nowhere. But until they can show me that, who is the best fighter? I got to be. Whether they like it or not, I got to be. Who do you know who can throw seven left hooks at a time? I threw six, wind up and then threw seven more. That’s thirteen left hooks in about twelve seconds. C’mon baby. Who else is doing that? Ain’t nobody doing that. When have you see Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard whipping one man, while talking to another. I am beating Jeff Lacy while I am talking to Danny Green, while Jeff Lacy is still swinging at me. I am still slipping the punches while I am talking to Danny Green. C’mon baby. Where do you seen that at? You don’t see that.”
Suddenly, those people who thought Green was fighting an aging veteran a long way past his prime were re-considering their opinion.
On Thursday September 17 at North Ryde in Sydney, Green and Jones Jr, beamed in live from the USA via satellite, officially announced their clash to be held at Acer Arena in Sydney on Wednesday, December 2.
The New South Wales state government tipped in a significant amount of money to ensure the fight was held in Sydney and NSW Premier Nathan Rees was on hand to assist with the formalities.
Acer Arena, with the support of the NSW State Government, staved off fierce competition from Brisbane, Melbourne and Green’s hometown of Perth to secure the event, with Rees declaring, “it will be the biggest fight ever staged in Australia”.
“Significantly for Danny,” Rees continued, “he won’t be alone at Acer Arena on December 2. We expect up to 5,000 interstate visitors, many of them from Western Australia, to be here in Danny’s corner. And you won’t just have to rely on support from across the Nullarbor. As Premier, I am proud to claim Danny as a passionate Sydneysider. We will be beside you every step of the way.”
Green and Jones Jr then signed their contracts at opposite ends of the planet live for the media.
“I’m not thinking about anything else now apart from Roy Jones Jr,” Green said. “There is no doubt he is one of the sport’s all time greats, but at the end of the day he is coming out here to knock me out on my turf, in front of my family. That’s all the motivation I need. I’ve been in this sport too long and worked too hard to have it all taken away, and come December 2, I’ll show Roy and the rest of the world the champion I am.”
“Danny is a good fighter, but he’s not me,” Jones Jr said. “He saw what I did to Jeff Lacy in Biloxi and I saw what Mundine did to him, so by my count this is going to be a tough night at the office for Danny Green.”
“I’m on my way (back) to the top baby,” continued Jones Jr, “and if it means making a detour to Australia then so be it, but I’m coming over to put on a show and leave with another world title around my neck.”
Getting the great Roy Jones Jr to fight in Australia was a huge tribute to the business acumen of Green Machine Promotions and a treat for boxing fans who could have never dreamed of seeing him fight live outside of the USA.
“It was always a bonus to get Roy Jones Jr to fight in Australia,” observed Hyder. “Greeny would have fought him in America. Greeny told him twenty times that he would fight in the USA when negotiations got tough. Danny has a great team around him and he himself is as much a businessman as anyone when it came to making the fight. We just bounce off each other and get to a point where we can pull off a coup like this.”
Jones Jr travelled to Australia for a two-week promotional tour and fronted the media at a press conference with Green on Wednesday September 30 at the Quay Restaurant in Circular Quay, Sydney. While in the past there had been smiles, laughs and mutual respect between the two, things had cooled significantly now with both boxers in fight mode.
“It’s on, for sure,” a gruff Jones Jr told the tense press conference.
“I won’t see the 12th round,” agreed Green, in response to Jones Jr’s manager McGee Wright predicting a knockout win for the American great. “I’ll be back celebrating with my family and friends because I have a very good feeling about this fight.”
Asked to make a round prediction, Jones Jr said, “It’s probably going to be in lesser rounds than I expect it to be, because I know he is strong and he is going to piss me off and then we go.”
“You are going to be really pissed off, really early,” interjected Green.
The previous weekend, it was reported in the USA that Jones Jr had signed an agreement to rematch Bernard Hopkins early in 2010 on the basis that he will defeat Green.
“It’s pretty cute that they have already signed a contract with Bernard Hopkins,” said Green, suggesting that Jones Jr was underestimating him.
Jones denied looking past Green, “Danny is strong as hell. I ain’t stupid,” he said. “After he (Hopkins) sees me fighting Danny Green, he is libel to say ‘no, never mind’, and change his mind anyway. After he sees me look great against Danny Green, he won’t fight me.”
Green spoke strongly throughout the media meeting and said the last time he felt this confident before a fight was when he knocked out Eric Lucas in Canada in December 2003.
“I am very confident about winning this fight,” he said. “I see it. I have a recurring kind of vision. I envisage an earlier than a 12th round stoppage by myself against Roy Jones Jr. It’s business now. It’s on. The respect is always going to be there because he is one of the greatest fighters of all time. But I don’t care about that, because he is coming to knock me out and that is a very personal thing to do in front of my family and friends.”
Green even had time for a little dig at arch rival Anthony Mundine.
“I might see if Choc (Mundine) wants to be a sparring partner,” he suggested. “We are looking for some sparring partners who are fast and flashy.”
During their media tour, Green and Jones travelled to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Griffith and held open training sessions in Martin Place in Sydney.
Everywhere he went, Jones Jr was feted as a legendary superstar and enjoyed enormous support. It further validated his decision as a historical one to fight outside of the USA for the first time.
Others saw his decision in a different light where financial considerations were more important.
“Roy’s willingness to go to Australia to fight Green,” observed William Dettloff, The Ring magazine’s senior writer, “is a reflection of his seriously degraded market value and status in the sport. Everyone remembers how he refused to go to Germany to fight Darius Michalczewski. He didn’t have to. That he’s going to Australia to fight Green really speaks for itself.”
“I find it ironic that now, toward the end of his career,” said Showtime commentator Steve Farhood, “Jones is willing to leave the borders when he was reluctant to do so in his prime. He’s chasing money, I guess. What happens with a lot of U.S. based stars is that after their appeal wanes at home, they take the show on the road, where they’re still major attractions. Mike Tyson is making his living doing that as we speak.”
Varying sources in Australia and the USA said that Jones Jr had been guaranteed between US$3 to US$4 million dollars to compete in Sydney - an amount that he was unlikely to immediately command back home at this stage of his career. He will actually earn much more than that depending on the financial success of the fight.
“Roy never wanted to travel before after what happened to him in the Olympics in 1988 and who could blame him?” said ESPN’s boxing writer Dan Rafael. “But when he was the best fighter in the world, he didn’t need to travel. He was the man and made big money in the U.S. Now that Roy is no longer that top fighter and realizes he can’t make big money against most opponents in the U.S, he changed his tune because he knows he can make way more money going to Australia to fight Green than he can make by staying home to fight a regular opponent here.”
One of the reasons that so much money was available to Jones Jr was that the fight with Green would be considered one of the best and biggest ever held in Australia.
There are many ways to measure the magnitude of a fight, whether it is the size of the crowd, historical significance or simply the amount of money it made.
Taking all of those aspects into consideration, there seems to be a clear consensus that Jack Johnson’s fourteen round points win over champion Tommy Burns to win the undisputed heavyweight crown on December 26, 1908, 101 years ago, is No.1.
The match was held the day after Christmas at the Rushcutter’s Bay Stadium, Sydney in front of over a reported 20,000 spectators. Even Roy Jones Jr will concede the significance of the Johnson-Burns fight over his own match with Green. The “Galveston Giant” became the first black man to hold the world heavyweight title.
“Heck, yeah,” he said. “Jack Johnson does mean a lot. At the time, we were going through a lot of problems in America. He has got to mean a lot.”
Fighting in the same town where Johnson achieved such an important feat means even more to Jones Jr.
“That means a whole lot to me because I was the first guy in over one hundred years to win the middleweight and heavyweight titles,” he explained. “I’m going to be the first American to come over here and become a champion again in over 100 years, who was a superstar in America and that’s big. That’s the type of thing that I’m doing. People don’t understand that means more to me, than being concerned about going back home to fight Bernard Hopkins. I already did that. That ain’t nothing. I go home and beat him again, so what? I already beat him with one hand. This (Green fight) is an historical event. This is where it is at. I’d rather be doing this all day, than doing that. They saying, ‘are you looking ahead?’ Hell, no. This is what I came for. I ain’t beat him (Green). I already beat him (Hopkins). I ain’t worried about him (Hopkins). That is 16 year-old trash. That is in my archive. I ain’t tripping about that. This is historic. This is what I love.”
Other matches with credentials to be ranked in the top five include: Azumah Nelson vs. Jeff Fenech in Melbourne in March 1992. Anthony Mundine vs. Danny Green in Sydney in May 2006 and Joe Frazier vs. Jimmy Ellis in Melbourne in March 1975.
There are a number of other fights that could also be considered for a Top 5 ranking.
“I would say that Johnson-Burns is No.1,” said respected historian and Australian Boxing Hall of Fame museum curator Arnold Thomas. “One of the others I would put a lot significance on is when Bill Lang fought Tommy Burns in September 1908, before the Jack Johnson fight. Bill was only a young boy and here he was fighting the world champion, but he got paid 600 pounds. It was an extraordinary amount of money for a man like that, and so boxing boomed. It absolutely took enough, because every young man wanted to box for that kind of money.”
Thomas also points to the Vic Patrick-Freddie Dawson lightweight match in September 1947.
“It was an extraordinary boxing event in Australian history,” he said, “The next morning, Sydney was literally in mourning, because Vic Patrick lost by knockout. The whole nation was depressed. There was extraordinary interest in that fight. Vic Patrick was like a national hero, such as Les Darcy was.”
The sheer volume of interest among the Australian population is defining in the opinion of Thomas.
“Do you measure it sociologically?” asked Thomas. “Dawson-Patrick had an enormous effect on the Sydney people. Other fights have some historical significance, but they don’t mean anything sociologically.”
Green’s local superfight with arch-rival Anthony Mundine was held outdoors at the Sydney Football Stadium in front of an estimated 30,000 people. While it was a fight which had unbelievable national interest, outside of Australia, it hardly rated a mention.
“When I measure the magnitude of a fight, it is on distribution only,” said Justin Manolikos, Green’s manager/promoter. “How a fight is measured is by how many people watch it.”
“Mundine-Green doesn’t even compare on a world stage to this fight between Danny and Roy Jones, it is as simple as that,” continued Manolikos. “As an example, Joe Calzaghe-Roy Jones had 352 million viewers worldwide. Of course, this fight isn’t going to do those sort of numbers, but backing into Bernard Hopkins and his supposed warm-up fight as well, the coverage is going to feature Jones and Hopkins in the USA, so you would imagine that it is going to do very good numbers in America.
“Mundine-Green may have got to only 10 million people tops watching, because it was only shown in Australia. In all honestly, you just can’t even compare the two. People who say anything else, just have no idea on the sort of exposure either of them will get. Green-Mundine was not seen out of Australia and did not even go to New Zealand. This fight is going to the USA, Canada, UK, Malaysia, New Zealand and they are the ones we know about at this time. When it is a cracker of a fight and Danny knocks him out, where do you start selling replay rights?”
Manolikos says that the media interest in Green-Jones Jr is also far superior to the Mundine-Green fight.
“The requests we have had for media accreditation has been five times as big as it was for Mundine-Green,” he said. “I’m not belittling the Mundine fight whatsoever, because we were involved in it, but I’m just stating the facts.”
Regardless of how any person ranks the biggest fights in Australian boxing history, it is most likely that most would have both Green-Jones Jr and Mundine-Green in their top five. Not a bad achievement for a skinny carpenter from Perth who represented Australia at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“It is a great observation,” Green told SecondsOut. “It blows me away. It gives me a kick in my step. It is mind blowing. I am a proud Aussie and that is special. My legacy has definitely been left in this sport and I want to solidify that legacy internationally now by defeating Roy Jones Jr. I don’t care what people say. I am very proud to have been in two of the top five. One is ridiculous. Two is mad. It is insanity. That will probably dawn on me in years to come.”
“That’s something that from our point of view really doesn’t sink in now,” added Manolikos, “but I’m sure in five years time we’ll sit down and laugh and say, it wasn’t a bad effort. We’ll have three of five when Danny Green beats Roy and then goes and knocks out Bernard Hopkins.”
Speaking of the “Executioner” Bernard Hopkins, the former undisputed middleweight and light heavyweight world champion has cast a shadow over the Green-Jones Jr fight, even from around the other side of the planet.
After Jones Jr had signed on to fight Green, a deal was done for Jones to rematch Hopkins, almost seventeen years after their first meeting in May 1993.
“As for Jones-Hopkins, too late and too little,” said Showtime’s Steve Farhood. “Jones was horrendously diminished by the Calzaghe fight, and while he remains one of the best light heavyweights in the world, his star power ain’t what it used to be. Hopkins can cherry-pick his opponents, and he remained relevant by easily defeating Kelly Pavlik, but I get the impression he and Jones are taking this fight for personal reasons. The first fight wasn’t particularly entertaining, and this one won’t be Hagler-Hearns either. Interesting? Yes. Compelling? No.”
On Thursday, Hopkins takes a tune-up with Enrique Ornelas in Philadelphia.
The promoters in America are so confident that Jones Jr will defeat Green and that Hopkins will win, that they have already pencilled in the match between the two greats in their forties for March 13, 2010 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
44 year-old Bernard Hopkins is not impressed with Green and doesn’t give the impression that he considers the Australian a threat to upset his rematch with arch-rival Jones Jr.
“Danny Green? Who is Danny Green? Who has he beaten?” asked Hopkins, in a preview documentary for the fight. “Give me two names of legends he has beaten? I’m waiting? If you want to be somebody respected across the other side of the world, then not only do you have to flatten Roy Jones Jr, you also have to come and make a statement here in America where most fighters from overseas have came. You are no different Danny Green.”
Back in Australia, the only rivals to Roy Jones Jr being the best ever international boxer to fight this country are Jack Johnson, Archie Moore, Sam Langford and Gus Lesnevich.
Around the world, despite the world titles in four weight classes so far and a clear decade run as the best boxer in the world pound for pound, some experts fail to agree on how good Roy Jones Jr really is.
“I like not to rate fighters historically until after they’ve retired,” said The Ring’s William Dettloff. “When he was young I thought he was the best fighter I had ever seen. That turned out not to be true over the long haul but he still got enough good work done to end up in my light heavyweight Top 10.”
“Roy will go down as one of the all-time greats,” said ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “He’s as physically gifted as anyone who ever lived. His speed was second to none, but he’ll get points off from some for taking too many meaningless fights and for not fighting some of the opponents who were there for him to fight.”
Australian veteran Nader “Lionheart” Hamdan was invited into Roy Jones Jr’s team over the last two weeks and sparred eight rounds with him in two sessions at Kostya Tszyu’s gym in Rockdale and Star City Casino.
“It takes you up another level sparring Roy Jones Jr,” said Hamdan. “I grew up watching Roy win world titles and he is not old. He hit me with his left hooks and I loved it. I know it sounds a bit sick. It is not one either. He hits you with three or four in a split second. I really appreciate Roy asking me to be part of his team. It is something special.”
He may be 40 years of age, but from his inside the ring viewpoint, Hamdan says Roy Jones Jr still has it. Green has little chance to win says his former training partner.
“I give Danny a puncher’s chance,” he said. “He has to land on Roy to win. He can’t win otherwise. But trying to hit Roy Jones Jr is a whole different thing.”
While many observers are trying to calculate what Jones Jr has left going into the fight as a determining factor in who will win, trainer Angelo Hyder believes what Green will bring to the ring will be the difference.
“I think Danny’s will to win is probably going to be the defining point,” he said. “They both have their skills and their strengths. They are different. I think when it all comes down to it, strip everything else away, it comes down to that inner self drive. You either want it or you don’t.”
“I want to win this fight hardcore,” said Green. “It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. History is history. For me, it is all about beating the great Roy Jones Jr. He wants his victory for different reasons and I want my victory for different reasons. We both have got strong passionate reasons to be victorious, which is going to create one thing. Excitement!”
While Hyder worked with Green as an assistant trainer and match-maker under original trainer Jeff Fenech, he wasn’t working with Green for the Mundine fight after the Fenech-Green split. Hyder wasn’t even in Australia at the time for the fight and was away working with WBA featherweight world champion Chris John.
Outwardly intense through most of his career, Green has focused on being more relaxed both inside and outside the ring since his comeback.
“He realises that it is not an endless career,” explained Hyder. “He realised what he had and how much he loves it. How much he loves being in the ring. I believe there was a time there when he didn’t and it became more of a chore for him. He is much more relaxed now.
“I knew he was too tense for the Markus Beyer rematch. When he got in the ring, after one jab I said in the corner that he is not going to win this on points. He had emotionally left the fight outside the ring and he still came close to knocking him out.”
Hyder has no doubt that the extended break was a blessing for Green at the time and he is now able to be an even better fighter and boxer at this relatively late age.
“Definitely,” agreed Hyder. “He is the best ever now. I said to him the other day, ‘did you ever think you were going to be moving around the ring like you are today?’ Danny just shook his head.”
When Green retired without notice he said, “No one is going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me when enough is enough.”
In the same way, no one was ever going to tell the “Green Machine” that he couldn’t come back to boxing and right now it has worked out perfectly in securing one of the biggest fights in Australia history.
Of course, it will be reviewed after the fight as to whether Green did the right thing, but in the end, how can anyone begrudge a boxer the chance to defeat a legend, when he could have so easily been catching some waves on one of Perth’s beautiful beaches.
Green summed it up simply, “This is it.”